ABC moving Q+A to Thursday nights has seen its ratings drop when compared to the Q1 Mondays in 2019 and 2020.
The drop in metro figures comes despite elevating the show from a 9:30pm to 8:30pm start time. While Thursdays generally attract less viewers across the board, the earlier start time might have at least seen numbers hold, but it isn’t the case so far. This comes despite some decent lead-in figures from Back Roads.
ABC sources point to the COVID-19 pandemic delivering a surge in 2020 viewing numbers, which is correct for the year as a whole, under host Hamish Macdonald. This does make direct comparisons somewhat complex.
Lockdown rolled out across Australia in late March 2020, with 4 episodes in the first 9 weeks themed around COVID (there have been 2 so far in 2021).
Yet comparing to 2019 -without the COVID factor- numbers were also higher with Tony Jones as host. This is not to criticise Macdonald, who has handled some difficult subjects with sensitivity -in his final year Jones had himself advocated for a shift to an earlier slot on a different night.
Here is a comparative look at Overnight metro numbers (per 100,000) across early 2019 – 2021:
|Mar-25||414,000||563,000 *||237,000 *|
|Apr-01||392,000||505,000 *||N/ A|
* Covid-19 theme
# Bushfires theme
There is also the matter of what has replaced the show on Monday nights.
Despite strong numbers from Media Watch, ABC is yet to settle on a destination show with a variety of documentaries filling the slot, including Foxtel-produced The Pacific: In the Wake of Captain Cook with Sam Neill, Being Frank and The Hunt for Gadaffi’s Billions -the latter as low as just 187,000 metro viewers.
This is in addition to launching ABC TV Plus which already offers extra documentary timeslots. Programming is always an easier art in hindsight, but it will clearly take time to shift rusted-on current affairs viewers from Mondays to Thursdays.
An ABC spokesperson told TV Tonight, “Like all news and current affairs programs, when COVID-19 arrived in Australia last year the huge public interest in any pandemic-related content saw big audience spikes.
“From May, audiences began returning to previous levels. Q+A was in its former timeslot for 13 years and it’s been in its new spot for a few weeks. The panels have been terrific and the discussions have been interesting and valuable. There’s lots more ahead for Q+A this year. “